The NHL has released the start times for the final three games of the North Division schedule, set to be played between the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. Both teams are out of the playoff race and will now finish the year with a pair of afternoon tilts. The game on May 19 is especially noteworthy, as its 1:30pm MT start leaves the possibility for the North to start its playoffs that evening. Starting the playoffs the same day the regular season concludes is something deputy commissioner Bill Daly hinted at yesterday as the league tries to get through the 2020-21 season without any further delays.
The other three divisions will already be well into their first-round playoff matchups, with things kicking off on Saturday with the Washington Capitals hosting the Boston Bruins. Those two teams will meet tonight as well, though the Bruins aren’t going to risk any injuries; Boston will rest Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, David Krejci, Craig Smith, Sean Kuraly, Charlie Coyle, Charlie McAvoy, Ondrej Kase, Matt Grzelcyk, Mike Reilly, Brandon Carlo, Jeremy Lauzon, Kevan Miller, and Tuukka Rask this evening.
- As for the future, the league is expected to go back to the schedule matrix and playoff format that was used during the 2018-19 season, according to Nick Cotsonika of NHL.com, with the exception of course of the Seattle Kraken being added to the Pacific Division and the Arizona Coyotes moving to the Central. Past the 2021-22 season though things may change, as Daly explained they are canvassing clubs to find out what it will look like down the line. The deputy commissioner suggested they may be able to release information on the 2022-23 scheduling format before the 2021-22 season starts.
- There are other leagues preparing for a more regular 2021-22 campaign as well, including the ECHL which released its schedule today. The minor league will kick things off on October 21 and play 972 games through April 17, 2022. The ECHL will have 27 teams for next season, including new ones from Trois-Rivières, Quebec, and Coralville, Iowa.